Chapter Sixty Nine
She had to make a decision. She had one day left and she had to make a decision.
There was no more putting it off now, Aabirah thought, sighing wearily. She knew what she had to do, much as she hated it. But her throat closed whenever she thought of telling Iman her decision. She didn’t want to do this.
The desire to just crawl under the covers and refuse to come out no matter what was overwhelming. Running away would have been so much easier.
But there was no hope for it now.
Aabirah went in search of Iman. She had to get it over with before it drove her insane.
Iman was sat in her favourite plush chair right in front of the fireplace in the library, softly reciting the Quran aloud. She looked up and smiled when Aabirah came in, continuing her recitation.
The pretty words were soothing, as always and Aabirah curled up in her own spot, happy to listen.
All too soon, Iman had finished and was laying her Quran on a convenient little table. She looked Aabirah up and down and sighed. “You look awful. Did you sleep at all?”
Aabirah hadn’t. The threat of nightmares had kept her up and restless. She ignored the question, not wanting to worry Iman further.
“I made my decision,” she announced in a shaky voice. “I -”
“Wait!” Iman held up a hand. “Before you tell me… remember that there’s no one ‘right’ decision.”
Aabirah frowned, successfully distracted. “What do you mean? Of course there is.” There was a decision that would make her a good person and two that wouldn’t.
Iman shook her head. “I should’ve talked to you about this before,” she said regretfully. “It completely slipped my mind.”
“Talk about what?”
“Forgiveness. And duty.”
Aabirah squirmed. “I don’t see what there is to talk about. Forgiveness is good and everyone has duties they need to fulfil. What else is there?”
“A lot. I used to think the same things you did, for a long time. But it’s not quite so simple as all that. Forgiveness and duty are important. They’re very important. But it’s not as clear-cut as that.”
Aabirah’s face showed her confusion and Iman laughed. “I know it sounds strange. Just hear me out, okay?”
“Sure,” Aabirah said agreeably. It couldn’t hurt, right? Even though it wouldn’t change anything.
“Forgiveness can’t be forced,” Iman said gently. “And trying to make yourself forgive someone helps no one. It creates resentment and misery for you – because you’re not ready, because you feel trapped… Because of a lot of things.”
Aabirah’s head snapped up. “How did you… How did you know that?” she demanded, shocked.
“I didn’t,” Iman admitted. “I’m talking about things that I’ve felt.”
“Oh,” Aabirah whispered, still shaken.
“It’s not uncommon, unfortunately.” Iman looked away. “But that’s a whole other can of worms. Don’t force yourself to forgive before you’re ready is all I’m saying. Give yourself the time you need.”
“Right,” Aabirah’s throat was tight and she sniffed.
“And,” Iman reached out and took her hand. “Don’t let duties to others make you neglect yourself.”
“But I thought… I thought those were good things,” Aabirah said helplessly.
“They are! Forgiveness is lovely when it’s given willingly. And it will benefit you too, not just the person you’re forgiving. But it’s not real if it’s forced. And duty and responsibility – they’re vital. But you need to have limits. Don’t try to do more than what you’re capable of – you’ll hurt yourself. And I really don’t want you to do that.” Iman squeezed her hand again.
Aabirah didn’t know what to say. She shook her head wordlessly. “I’m so confused,” she admitted. She’d come down to the library miserable but resolute. And now… she just didn’t know.
“I didn’t mean to make things harder on you,” Iman said apologetically. “I’m sorry for that.”
“It’s okay,” Aabirah said automatically.
“Not, it’s not. But thank you for being sweet about it. Can I help?”
Aabirah tilted her head in confusion. “How?”
“Tell me what’s confusing you and maybe we can make sense of it together?” Iman suggested. “It can’t hurt.”
“I – I don’t want to have to deal with him again,” The confession was hard to voice. Immediately, Aabirah’s cheeks pinked and she ducked her head in shame.
Iman’s brow furrowed. “Why would you have to?’
“Because…” Aabirah said slowly. “He’d come back.”
Iman was shaking her head. “No, that’s not possible at all. Your father’s a fugitive.”
“Then what?” Aabirah asked, now completely confused. “I thought you said…”
“We’ll get him out,” Iman agreed. “But he’ll need to leave the country and change his name. He’s never going to be able to come back here.”
Aabirah couldn’t stop her smile.
“I see that’s helped,” Iman commented. “I assumed you realized. I assumed a lot of things this week,” she sighed. “That’s what happens when you take on too much.”
“I’m sorry,” Aabirah whispered immediately, contrite.
“Don’t be silly,” Iman scolded. “You have nothing to be sorry for. Now, do we have a decision?”
“Save him,” Aabirah said easily. “And send him far, far away.”
“Yes, ma’am! Right away, ma’am!” Iman quipped.
Aabirah giggled feeling ridiculously happy. It felt like she’d just been pumped full of air – she was floating!
A thought struck her and she began to deflate. “Is that bad?” she asked Iman worriedly.
“Not wanting him around. My father, I mean.”
Iman bit her lip, struggling to control her expression. “Why would it?” she asked finally.
“He’s… my father. Shouldn’t I want him around?” Aabirah struggled to find the right words. “Shouldn’t I be loyal to him?”
Iman’s cheeks were bright red and her eyes were hard. “He is your father,” she said, struggling to control her tone. “But there’s a difference between doing your duty and leaving yourself open for further abuse.”
“But I thought – I mean, people say Islam says to keep your family close no matter what.” Her mother had told her that, Aabirah remembered. No matter how hard it was, no matter how it hurt, cling to your family.
Iman took a deep breath. “To the best you can,” she agreed. “You’re meant to do the best you can. Can you do more? Can you survive it?”
“Do the best you can. And don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with guilt about what’s beyond you. I’ve always thought that it’s a much better way of living than allowing yourself to get overwhelmed and bogged down by guilt.”
Aabirah thought so too.
Impulsively, she hugged Iman. “Thank you. For everything. Thank you so much.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Iman assured her. “Really, it is.”
They pulled apart and Iman got to her feet. “Now how about we go do something a little less emotional?” She held out her hand. “I’m in the mood to pick out wedding food.”
Aabirah took the hand, relinquishing her guilt. “Let’s go.”